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The Rise of Capitalism

This past week in contemporary literature, we delved into Donald Barthelme's comedy of death and sex in elementary ed. Which is to say, we read, "The School" and "Me and Miss Mandible." George Saunders (see "The Perfect Gerbil") might argue that Donald Barthelme's tension doesn't rise quite so much in "The Rise of Capitalism" as it does in "The School," but he certainly has some good thoughts and sentences throughout. Let's call it a fine blend of comedy and tragedy, or at least melodrama, belly whoops, and rage. I found the text online and also as a video reading from an anonymous fan.

Of course, a guy published continually in The New Yorker can afford to add a little whimsy to his capitalist gloom. Homeboy (he was born in Philly, but he was almost dead before I even knew he was a writer) went through a pile of wives and held the central position in letters that half of literary fiction writers would die for. If he was miserable and crushed by deadlines and alimonies, so be it.

In the end about all you can say about The Dead Father is, "Heck of a writer. Genius. Pure. That Donny B. could write his ass so far off it'd carry his cojones halfway to the heavens before floating back down to fertile ground."

But back to capitalism, I suppose that the profit motive is a main reason the other restaurants used cheap noodles to drive the respectable proprietor out of business in J.A. Pak's short tale of the woes of pho. The owner-turned-server is dismayed in a more straightforward way than Donald Barthelme's ironic narrator of "The Rise of Capitalism," but both stories leave us with doubt and fear about "the system."

From the Barthelme: "Capitalism arose and took off its pajamas. Another day, another dollar. . ."

Speaking of which, I need to lie down before I finally get out of the house.


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